Transition from Relaxed to Natural Hair
So you want to return to your natural hair, but you don’t want to do the big chop. I feel you, I’ve been there – while many naturals begin their journey with a bald head, or a close shave, others would rather go a different route. Being petite, I was concerned that cutting off all my hair would make me look like a school-going boy, so I opted to transition for 8 months.
Transitioning simply refers to the process of walking away from relaxers, letting your natural hair grow out and then trimming the relaxed ends periodically, or cutting them all at once when you feel comfortable doing so. Some people transition for 3 months, others for 3 years. It’s up to you, really. But no matter the length of time, there are some key methods to ensure a successful transition to healthy happy natural hair.
First, get mentally invested…
It’s no secret that our society values straight, flowing locks, with many women paying through the nose for silky straight weaves. So you’re probably going to face some resistance when your natural hair gets to a noticeable length. People will offer directions to their salon; some may even offer to pay for you to get a relaxer.
Unlike with the irreversible “big chop”, while transitioning; you may be tempted to go back on the creamy crack. Remind yourself why you chose to leave it alone, look up YouTube videos of other naturals who transitioned, speak to natural-haired friends. And feel free to let some people know that it’s perfectly ok for you to rock your God-given curls.
In addition to mental preparation, you might need to add to your arsenal of styling skills. If your hair has been chemically straightened since you can remember, your approach to caring for your natural hair has to change. Read on for some tested-and-true hair care methods for transitioning.
Maintaining Transitioning Hair
1. Hair Care
Keep your hair regimen simple, so that you don’t get overwhelmed. A regimen is a set of steps repeated regularly to achieve a certain (hair) goal.
A good hair regimen for a transitioner looks like this: Once a week, wash with a sulphate-free shampoo, deep condition with a moisturising conditioner and alternate with a protein conditioner once a month. Apply a moisturising leave-in conditioner and seal it in with a natural oil (olive, coconut, etc). Tie the hair up in a loose bun and leave to air-dry. Natural hair tangles easily, so on your wash days, detangle using your fingers and an effective detangling mixture, before you proceed to shampoo.
It is important to be very gentle with transitioning hair because the point where your old relaxer meets the new growth (aka the line of demarcation) is a weak point which breaks easily. Heat use should be minimised as much as possible to avoid damaging your new natural tresses. Deep condition and moisturise religiously to ensure your hair is as flexible as possible.
It can be tempting to always be blow-drying your hair to blend the 2 textures, but as we now know, heat can be quite damaging. Opt for curly styles instead (Bantu knots, twists, cornrows, flexi rods, perm rods) to achieve beautiful low-maintenance curls. Be sure to always try out the styles on damp hair as it is the most flexible and won’t break as easily. You can opt also for protective styling with braids or sew-in weaves for those difficult months when you run out of ideas for styling. Take good care of your hair even while it’s in braids and weaves so that when you finally cut off the relaxer, you have a healthy scalp & healthy hair.
Invest in good products and tools that will make your transitioning journey easier: satin bonnet/pillowcases, a good natural oil, spray bottle, wide-tooth comb, bobby pins, Eco styler gel if you prefer slick styles, etc. The greatest thing about transitioning is that it affords you time to learn your new texture, try out products, and do some research. So join Facebook forums, watch Youtube videos, and turn yourself into a natural hair pro. Transitioning can be exciting as you watch those curls and kinks come in, so enjoy the journey!
Myths about Transitioning
1. You can revert back to natural hair by washing your relaxed hair with beer, vodka, etc. Yeah, no.
Chemical relaxer is a permanent process which breaks down the hair structure to make it straight. Irreversibly straight. There’s no other way about it but to cut off the relaxed strands.
2. Transitioning is about braiding for long periods until the relaxed hair “falls away”. Yes, your relaxed hair may fall away (that is, break along the line of demarcation). But it will leave your new natural hair with unhealthy split ends.
Your journey will be much easier if you moisturise properly and have your trims done professionally.